Hmm for those in Australia and elsewhere, there have been many ups and downs with the lockdowns and extended lockdowns, delayed school starts, possible online learning.
While I mostly post on coaching and coaching in OT (Occupational Therapy), I am going to bring up a slightly different topic not directly related to coaching but to OT and specifically our bodies and ergonomics.
We are not designed to sit all day and increasingly we are, this is not something new that I am telling you, however, with lockdowns continuing globally we are sitting more than ever, moving less but also sitting in awkward positions. I remember when companies first started sending people home with laptops (am I showing my age?) and we (as in the OT profession working within organisations) would recommend equipment to ensure that workers were set up well at home or on the their phones (prior to mobile phones) and laptops. But, we are now at a very different stage of working from home and while some are already set up to work from home, are our whole families? One office/desk maybe well set up, but are those at the kitchen tables, benches, couches, bedrooms well set up?
Who gets an ache here and there, muscle spasms in their back or butt? Whose kids eyes and necks are ‘hurting’?
If this is the case some things to remember:
- Ensure that the screen is high enough that you do not need to hunch over the device, if you are it needs to be heightened by something or check the height of the item that you are sitting on. Laptops are difficult because they also need to be a little closer and lower however there will be a ‘sweet spot’ where your neck does not bend too far forward and you can maintain decent posture through your upper back and shoulders. Some have an extra screen, this is fabulous however, I am more concerned with those that currently are not set up this way.
- Take breaks away from the seated position, our bodies naturally want to be moved every 20mins or so, so allow your body to shift and move, take a brief moment to stretch (see stretches below). Structure your day or your kids day to allow for extended periods of breaks away from work/screens/school work that are not seated, but standing, moving and stretching. The more you can move the more the blood will flow and the lymphatic system will be stimulated to reduce the amount of stiffness and soreness from sitting for long periods of time.
- Avoid awkward/twisted positions when sitting on the floor or on the couch, and again consider the height of the screen and the position of the keyboard or device to avoid hunching over at the shoulders/upper back and neck.
- Consider where commonly used items are placed, if they are required often keep them closer to avoid difficult positioning if they are items not required often keep them a little further away or better yet somewhere where you are required to get up and move to get them.
- School aged kids need to be moving around so allow/encourage ample opportunity for them to move around even if it is them watching a youtube clip with exercises on it. I know of many that have their families in an apartment and therefore outdoor movement can be difficult, so understanding that ‘movement’ is what we are aiming for.
- Use items at home to raise screens ie boxes, baskets if required, the same should be considered for footrests where needed, you are more likely to slouch and sit badly in your seat if your feet are not well supported. You know what I am talking about – legs crossed, butt sliding forward in the seat which creates the concave positioning of your back (this is not desirable).
- Stretch your quads (the big front muscles in your thighs) and your hip flexors because they shorten when we sit too much and too long and if you also have tight hamstrings you will find it increasingly hard to stand up and position your pelvis correctly and comfortably. Find some youtube clips with pilates, yoga or stretches for office workers. What you want to avoid is becoming ‘quad dominant’ and your ‘psoas’ to spasm, also look these terms up, you can thank me later. It is extremely painful/uncomfortable and can take awhile to rectify once the psoas is unhappy. I encourage you to look this up so you understand what you are stretching and why.
- Consider lighting. Glare on a screen or squinting will cause headaches especially in kids but also adults, and those with unchecked vision variances. Avoid glare by closing curtains/blinds or setting up with the angle of the screen in a different spot. Downlights can also cause glare so check this if you are finding that you are squinting or have headaches. Tight shoulders, neck and pecks can also contribute to headaches so review the options of movement and stretching.
Below are some resources that may assist.
These are great posts of office/desk set up.
I love the one below:
And for the kids…
Stretches, exercises, yoga, pilates
Move! Move? Move?
If you have any pre-existing injuries or difficulties you may need to check with your health professional first so be mindful of your own abilities.
If you are struggling with desk set up please contact an ergonomic specialist to assist with you with your set up.